London — By Andrea Kirkby on February 23, 2011 at 6:49 am
Filed under: royals

Where Do the Royal Family Actually Live?

One of the things I often get asked when I’m hosting foreign friends around London is “Where do the royal family actually live?”

Born in the purple - Queen Elizabeth II looks impressive in royal colours

It’s quite easy to say where they don’t live. For instance, they don’t live in the Tower of London – though the Crown Jewels do.

They don’t live at Hampton Court, the amazing palace that Henry VIII took over from Cardinal Wolsey, who built it. And although a number of junior members of the royal family live in Kensington Palace, you won’t find the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh or the Prince of Wales there. You won’t find the Queen at the Queen’s House, Greenwich, either, despite its name; nor at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.  And you’ll only find her at Westminster Palace once a year, when she opens Parliament. (And she’s only allowed in the House of Lords – the last time a British monarch set foot in the Commons was 1642, and it wasn’t a good move for Charles I – he parted company with his head seven years later.)

So if you want to indulge in a bit of royal-spotting, here’s a list of where the Royals probably are, and when.

  • Sandringham House, Norfolk, is the royals’ Christmas getaway – there’s good shooting, and you get a chance to see the royal family as they go to church on Christmas Day.
  • Balmoral, Scotland. This castle was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite places to get away from the pressures of monarchy, and it’s still a favoured holiday haunt for the royals – they usually spend a summer holiday here.
  • Windsor Castle. Like a lot of Londoners, the Queen likes to get out of the city at the weekend, and this is where she spends the weekend. She also spends Easter here, and as a horse racing fan (and racehorse owner) she stays in Windsor when the Royal Ascot race meeting is being held.
  • Buckingham Palace. This is a relatively new palace – it’s only been the home of the British monarch since 1837 – but it’s the administrative centre for the monarchy, as well as the venue for State visits. You’ll often be able to see processions on The Mall heading for the palace. And of course it’s where the famous Buckingham Palace Garden Parties are held, in the extensive gardens behind the palace.
  • St James’s Palace is the site of many major ceremonies, including the announcement of the accession of a new monarch, and ambassadors are still accredited to the Court of St James. It’s also the London home of the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, and princes William and Harry, and of the Princess Royal.
  • Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, hosts the Queen for a single week every year at the end of June, when she carries out a number of official engagements in Scotland.

Now you can’t always tell whether one of the other royals is around. But if the Queen is in residence, you’ll be able to see the Royal Standard flying. It’s a quartered flag, with the symbols of a country in each quarter – the lions (technically, leopards) of England, the harp of Wales, and the single lion rampant of Scotland. Depending on where you are, it’s slightly different – it has two red lions rampant in Scotland, and one each of the arms of the other two countries, while in England and Wales it gets two quarters full of English lions. Seems a bit unfair on the Welsh, but that’s the way it is.

And if the Union flag (‘Union Jack’ is not the correct term, apparently, unless it’s being flown from a ship) is flying above Buckingham Palace, the Queen is not at home.

Photo by Steve Punter on Flickr

Tags: royals

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